Contemporary Art in Berlin
Everyone keeps telling us: Berlin is THE city for contemporary art in Europe… Young, open, dynamic and eccentric, it’s a city where everything goes and where the term “underground” fits perfectly. It’s no surprise that many of the great names of the contemporary art scene have decided to settle and establish their studios in the buzzing art hub of Berlin. Among them: Wolfgang Tillmanns, Olafur Eliasson and Daniel Richter, to name but a few.
Here are a few places that Artsper has selected for you to get your share of contemporary art during your vacations !
1. Hamburger Bahnhof
The Hamburger Bahnhof is a former train station that once ran between the capital and the Hanseatic city of Hamburg. It has now been converted into a museum of contemporary art. The combination of a historic building with large modern architecture constitutes the ideal place to host a modern art collection. As a result it has attracted artists such as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Keith Haring, as well as more innovative artists from the contemporary scene.
In 1997, the museum organized its first major exhibition on Sigmar Polke. Then in 2004, the museum significantly expanded to accommodate the collection of Friedrich Christian Flick as a long-term loan. Since then, it has only continued to attract the greats and today hosts one of the widest exhibition spaces and most significant public collections of contemporary art in the world.
2. KW Institute
The KW Institute for Contemporary Art is an open and collaborative space dedicated to the production and promotion of innovative contemporary art in collaboration with artists and international institutions. Nowadays it’s a true melting pot for the recent developments in contemporary culture at both the national and international level.
Built at the beginning of the 1990s in an former margarine factory, the KW institute does not have its own collection. This makes it very versatile in its programming and the audience which it targets. This flexibility has given the KW Institute the opportunity to adapt its collection according to the artists participating. The directors therefore endeavour to use the artists’ own subjectivity as the starting point for exhibitions. In doing so, they hope to cast light on the political and social problems which haunt society today.
The various exhibitions that have taken place over the years testify to this effort. Take for example the exhibition ‘Fire and Forget: On Violence’ (2015). Here, artists including Damien Hirst and Marina Abramovic called into question the impact of weapons on the human psyche. The KW Institute therefore specialises in exhibitions which really make you think.
3. The Boros Collection
The Boros collection is nestled inside the famous “bunker of Berlin”. What was formerly a WWII air-raid shelter, and later a nightclub, has now been transformed into a museum of contemporary art. Christian de Boros, owner of a major German advertisement agency, bought the bunker in 2003. He subsequently had it refurbished into a penthouse and transformed the rest of the building into a contemporary art museum in order to exhibit his private collection comprised of sculptures and installations. He also asked many worldwide artists, such as Ai Wei Wei, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Anselm Reyle and Cosima van Bonin to create pieces specifically for this unusual space.
4. Sammlung Hoffman
Erika and Rolf Hoffman arrived in Berlin just after the reunification in 1990. Soon after their arrival, they wanted to give their private collection a proper home. They consequently chose a former sewing machine factory in the Mitte district and opened the doors of their collection for the public to see every Saturday. The couple started collecting in 1960. Their vast collection now comprises of an array of artists, such as famous American artists Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman and Mike Kelley, alongside German artists from Group ZERO like Heinz Mack, and Otto Piene, or artists from East Europe and Asia like Hiroshi Sugimoto and Olga Chernysheva.
Entirely not-for-profit and managed by artists, this place is a must-see of Berlin’s alternative cultural life. Reflecting the diversity of Berlin itself, the Grimmuseum has sought to create an interdisciplinary platform for artists from the national and international art scene. Since its opening in 2010, the gallery has worked with more than 400 artists and curated more than 80 exhibitions. Moreover, it has become a hub for the most offbeat emerging talents of the Berlin scene. If you’re looking for a refreshing glimpse into the art world of the future, the Grimmuseum is made for you!
6. Berlinische Galerie
The Berlinische Galerie was created in 1975 to showcase art exclusively from Berlin. It also opened to international art movements starting in the 70s. If you’re interested in the Secession, the expressionists , the New Objectivity, or conceptual and multimedia contemporary art, and many other movements, you’re sure to find something you like here.
7. Neue National Galerie
The Neue National Galerie opened in 1986 as a duo with the Alte Nationalgalerie exhibiting classical art. Its collection, though damaged by the Nazis and their hunt of “degenerate art” during WWII, consists of a large selection of works from 20th century Europe and United States. Big names from the Brücke group, cubist and surrealist movements, from the 50s and 60s and from Bauhaus decorate these walls. Among them are Ferdinand Hodler, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol.
Moreover, the building is surrounded by sculptures by Henry Moore, Richard Serra or Alexander Calder.
8. Street Art Tours
Maybe you followed the story that made headlines about Berlin street art in 2016? The artist Blu, creator of a famous mural bordering a vacant lot in Kreuzberg, had his own work covered up on the night of 11-12 December in order to protest against the planned conversion of the area by property developers.
Although you will no longer be able to admire the work of this particular street artist in Berlin, the German capital still remains the Mecca of the movement: the champion of alternative culture.
Street art tours are now a popular activity in all major European cities. What exactly are they? The idea is that you, a few likeminded curious tourists, and a guide who knows the latest in the urban scene check out the latest mural spots. It’s an excellent way to discover the town, art and local culture all at once, away from the beaten path! If you find yourself in Berlin, you will be surrounded by street art. From the East Side Gallery, to the alleys of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, you will never get bored in the streets of Berlin…
An alternative art scene in Berlin…
Berlin may not be typically associated with the fine arts, as Paris or Florence are. However, in the years following German reunification, the Berlin art scene has wholly transformed itself. It has developed its own distinctive identity and acquired a niche in the art world of today. As home to both the greats of modern contemporary art and the emerging artists of today, make sure to pay a visit to Berlin. You never know what you might find…
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